A resident of an Armenian border village was detained by Azerbaijani authorities on Thursday after crossing into Azerbaijan in disputed circumstances.
News reports from Baku said the young man, Karen Petrosian, was captured by residents of the Tovuz district in western Azerbaijan bordering Armenia’s northeastern Tavush province. They handed him over to military officials.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed later in the day, however, that Petrosian is a member of an Armenian commando squad that tried unsuccessfully to conduct a cross-border sabotage attack. It said Azerbaijani troops captured him after killing four other Armenian soldiers.
The Armenian Defense Ministry dismissed these claims as “laughable.” “Where are the bodies of those killed?” the ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Hovannisian insisted that Petrosian is a civilian resident of Chinari, a border village in Tavush, who crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border by accident. “According to our information, the guy drank alcohol and had some health problems before crossing the border,” he said.
“He went into the forest to collect firewood but lost his way,” said Samvel Saghoyan, the Chinari mayor. “We searched that area. His donkey was found but he wasn’t.”
Two residents of another Tavush village, Verin Karmiraghbyur, were detained on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier in separate incidents in January and March. They were freed after spending more than one month in captivity.
The Azerbaijani military claimed that one of those villagers, the 77-year-old Mamikon Khojoyan, was part of Armenian special forces that attempted to cross into Azerbaijan. Officials in Yerevan and Verin Karmiraghbyur laughed off those allegations. Khojoyan died in May after undergoing medical treatment in a Yerevan hospital. Doctors there said he suffered serious injuries in Azerbaijani custody.